WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D., member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released discussion draft legislation regarding offshore manning and crewing for feedback. The discussion draft aims to create a level playing field between U.S.-flagged vessels and foreign-flagged vessels working in offshore energy activities in U.S. waters. The changes also improve the oversight of foreign-flagged vessels and the mariners who work on these vessels.
“We need to ensure U.S. and Louisiana mariners and maritime companies can compete on a level playing field in the Gulf of Mexico for all offshore energy activities,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We cannot continue to lose to foreign vessels who take advantage of loopholes, avoid paying taxes, and hire foreign workers. We need to find a balance that maximizes opportunities for U.S. companies and workers and avoids project delays.”
Current law requires that all vessels, rigs, platforms, or other offshore structures be manned by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Existing law also includes an exemption from hiring Americans or lawful permanent residents for offshore activities and allows vessels that are more than 50 percent foreign-owned to operate in U.S. waters with foreign crews. The exemption was included to eliminate potential retaliation by foreign nations against American workers in foreign offshore activities. In practice, the exemption has not provided reciprocal access to foreign waters for U.S. mariners but has instead created a loophole that allows foreign vessels from some of the wealthiest countries in the world to utilize mariners not from their home or flag nation, but from low-wage nations. Since labor is the biggest operational expenditure for a vessel operator, operators rely on foreign mariners who are often paid less than their U.S. counterparts. Because foreign mariners are not subject to U.S. tax and labor laws, foreign vessels owners are able to leverage the cost savings derived to undercut the charter rates of similar U.S. vessels.
A House version of the legislation was included in the Coast Guard reauthorization this Congress.
Feedback will be collected through September 15, 2023.